Things I’ve Lost

Grieving has been one of the toughest things I’ve had to do because of cancer. There were times when I was grieving my whole life, the dream of a future beyond 19, but now I am grieving many smaller hopes and dreams.

I used to sit in the window in my hospital room and imagine being in remission, or past the bone marrow transplant, or out of the hospital. I imagined that I would feel light, free, and grateful. I still believe in that day, but it is going to be a while.

Cancer has taken a lot from me. I wish I could hug my sophomore-year-self and tell her that she wasn’t going crazy, her grades weren’t dropping for no reason, the pain was real and not just some undetected virus (thanks Vaden). I wish I could have studied abroad without fighting my body every step of the way. More than I grieve the past, though, I grieve the future. I think about how I am missing out on a year and half (minimum) of experiences with my class at school. I grieve the security I used to feel in my body, knowing that I am at high risk for relapse and/or secondary malignancies or other life-threatening transplant complications. I grieve the stupid long blonde hair that used to be my safety blanket (it’s growing back brown and weird). I remember thinking that being infertile would be a problem I would be grateful to have – it would mean I was alive and able to have normal people problems again. But now it just seems like a glaring reminder that this nightmare will never really be over. I have lost my independence, my sense of community, and in a lot of ways I have lost myself.

I know that as long as I don’t relapse or have another severe GVH flare up or other life-threatening transplant complication things will get better in time. I know that I will return to school and make the most of it even without my class. I have learned a lot and met some incredible people who have changed me forever. But I’m pissed. Sometimes I even look at other people’s cancer blogs and feel jealous of their comparatively easy treatment regimens. 6 months of chemo and 2 surgeries? Please, where do I sign up.

The other day I was looking through my camera roll and found a picture of my arms from when I was really sick back in December. Throughout this process I have taken pictures of almost every horrific thing that has happened to my body, just for myself. I guess as a way to honor and remember all of this. The nurses were unable to get an IV and I ended up having bruises all the way up my forearms. I looked at the picture today and realized I could see at least 10 holes in my arms – failed IV starts. There are so many smaller pieces of pain and suffering throughout this puzzle that I barely even remember.

On March 24 I will be 6 months post transplant, further than I ever expected to reach. I am surviving. Surviving feels like being mugged on a street corner in northern Alaska and being left with nothing but a t-shirt, last year’s weird jeans that never really fit, and a broken femur. And then everyone is very excited for you, very excited that you are alive and it comes from a place of good will but it’s like everyone is blind to all of the damage and I feel like I want to scream that I just lost everything and can’t you see how awful this is?

Here is a picture of my arms:

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About Brooke Vittimberga

I have cancer...oops
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18 Responses to Things I’ve Lost

  1. Lauren says:

    I really admire your strength, Brooke. Remember that you, and the support of those who care for you, have gotten you this far. Here’s a really simple and amazing video that helps me through tough times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo. You and your family take good care. ❤

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  2. Cure cancer says:

    Hope all is well not sure what type of cancer you have but you should check out immunotherapy for cancer http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160310005816/en/Biothera-Pharmaceuticals-Present-Phase-2-Cancer-Immunotherapy

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  3. Nelly Koehler says:

    I admired you for the strong commitment to you self and courage you are an inspiration to life.

    Like

  4. A great read, I’ve been there too 7 years ago & you will reach a point where things change. When you are strong or at least stronger. When you can say “yeah, I’ve got gvh” because it’s there but it’s not the biggest thing in your life anymore. It’s rough & it stinks but keep fighting.

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  5. Totty Yount says:

    Brooke, i wanted to let you know how your blog has touched me. Our stories are nothing alike, except we both have cancer and we both had a stem cell transplant, but your words struck a deep chord in me that resonated, you were able to say things that i have carried with me for 4.5 years, since i had my transplant. I was fortunate enough to not have any side effects from sct except for a major reaction to the chemo, but i wanted you to know that it does get better. One day, before you realize it, you will think well i haven’t walked that far in a long time, or I’ve been shopping for 2 hours and i don’t need to lay down right now, or you will make plans for dinner with friends and be able to actually attend and eat dinner and drive home all by yourself. Your life is waiting for you friend, day by day you will get back to it. It is not going to the be the life that you had planned, but it will be a glorious life. Thank you again for your blog, and i look forward to seeing what’s ahead for you!

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  6. Juan says:

    God bless you. I read your post and could not stop crying. I don’t even know you and I feel for you so much. My daughter was diagnosed with pre b ALL Leukemia at the age of four. She will be seven next month 4 months off treatment. I wish to god I could give my life to save her and all other kids barreling childhood cancer. I will keep you in my prayers always. If you ever need to talk I’ll listen. My daughter also has a support page on Facebook it is Jiseles Leukemia Battle. Stay strong brave warrior❤️

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  7. David Baptista says:

    Hi Brooke. I hear you. You are amazing. Working so hard to sort things out while the physical struggle rages. Say it as u will. I expect from where I stand that the one constant that crosses all types of this illness is that talking helps. I pray for you I have seen and felt loss. You are not alone.

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  8. Joann Sarcinella says:

    Hi Brooke, My heart breaks for you for everything that you’ve been through, and continue to go through. I have also followed the blog of Suleika Jaouad. She is a young girl, cancer survivor, writer. She also was diagnosed in her early twenties and I think she was maybe finishing up school when she was diagnosed. She writes a column for the NY Times called ” Lost in Transition After Cancer”. She is an inspirational young woman and I think you may benefit from reaching out to her. She does respond. She also has an Instagram and Facebook page where you can try and contact her. Stay strong and motivated. All of this will only make you stronger. Hugs.

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  9. Holly Davis says:

    Hello Brooke

    I am part of Emma’s Army . Your post was shared by Beth. I’m grateful gor her and for you. I appreciate you sharing your story/thoughts/your fight. You are a courageous young person that has inspred me. I will continue to read your blog and quietly be with you on your journey. You are not alone. God bless!

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